Sunday, August 30, 2015

Missed It By That Much

Missed it by thaaaaat much!
Quoting Maxwell Smart from the 1960's Get Smart series, that quote came to my mind while I was listening to Pastor Klaus on The Lutheran Hour this morning on my car radio while waiting for my wife to get off work.  His sermon, one I think I've heard before was on the matter of ultimate truth.  Pastor Klaus, while concluding that the large world religions of Islam, Buddhism and Christianity can't all be right, they are diametrically opposed to each other!  Klaus posits: "When you're talking about where your soul is going to be spending eternity, you want to be sure you're believing God's own truth!"  That, my friends, is a great statement!  Klaus had a friend who asked several people how they knew their faith was THE right faith.  A Christian answered, "My son was sick in the hospital, we prayed and he was made well!  That's how I know the Triune God is real."  Klaus adds, "many might find that to be a good answer, but does it hold water?"  What if that man's son had died?  Would that mean Christianity is false?   Then his friend asked the same question of a man from India and he said, "My son was sick in the hospital and I prayed to the monkey god, he was made well!  That's how I know the monkey god is real!"  An atheist answered, "My son was sick in the hospital, I prayed to no one, the doctors and medicine made him well - that's how I know there is no god and if there was, there is no need for one."  So Klaus concludes that mere anecdotal experiences are not adequate evidence of the existence of God, and he's right.

Pastor Klaus goes on to ask, "What about Hitler, how do you know he existed?"  One might answer, "We have movies of him!"  To which Klaus answered,
"That's a dangerous answer!  We have movies of King Kong, Godzilla and Dorothy's house being dropped on one of the wicked witches of Oz!"  Movies don't prove anything.  "But we have eye-witness accounts, some of whom are still alive today!"  "Well," said Klaus, "that's true and that's much better evidence - so let's make it a little harder...  how do we know Cleopatra or Julius Ceasar or Alexander the Great or a Napoleon?  While none of these are alive today, there were people who were alive when they were and wrote about them and we trust what they wrote.  On top of the eye-witness accounts, these people affected the whole world, so much so that we still see these affects today.   Good answer!  Well done!"  Proclaims Klaus, and he continues, "Now how about Jesus Christ?  Is that question a little bit different?  Some would have you believe so, but it is not.  John the Apostle, who had been with Jesus throughout His ministry wrote, 'that which we have heard; that which we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands was made manifest and we have seen it and we testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life which was made manifest to us; that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you so that you too may have fellowship with us and remember indeed that our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.'  But it is not only the Apostle John who attests to the reality of the Redeemer.  There is the physician, Luke who begins his narrative of Jesus' life by saying, 'Just as those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me, having followed all things closely - to write an orderly account for you that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.'  Did you hear that?  Luke interviewed the eyewitnesses so that believers might be certain regarding the Christ."  Klaus goes on to tell about St. Paul recording that the resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 brothers at one time - "and most of those 500 were still alive and kicking!  Folks, that's five HUNDRED eyewitnesses!"  Going back to the statement about how those other historic figures whose results have affected the world, even to this day, Klaus adds, "God's Son's life made a greater impact on this world than any other single person who has other lived and that impact was immediate and the centuries have shown it has been long lasting.  You know, when the word of Jesus' life, death and resurrection reached Thesolonica, those who were impacted said, 'those men who have turned the world upside down have come here also!'  It was not the men, it was their message which toppled the gods of Olympus and silenced the gods of Egypt in city after city, province after province.  The Word of the Lord was proclaimed and the result was consistent and constant when people heard the facts about the grace and love of God which had been shown in the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Savior, they were transformed; they were filled with a knowledge of God's will, they had a new understanding of who they were and what their purpose in life was to be.  They knew by the cleansing blood of the Lamb shed on Calvary's Cross, they had been rescued from the dominion of darkness and had been brought into the kingdom of Light."  http://media.lhm.org/lhm/podcasts/LH8252US_Aug30.mp3
Now what is to object to what Pastor Klaus is saying here?  Nothing much, except from the position he is saying these things - as a Lutheran pastor.  He's SO CLOSE to the "ultimate truth" he began with, but stops a bit short.  Jesus not only was born, died and resurrected - but also spent the next forty days teaching His Apostles, our first bishops, how to run His Church.  Think about it, they already had the gospel messages - they lived through them as eyewitnesses!  But what was missing from the three years prior to the Passion of the Christ was the governing and management of His Church.  So, as Pastor Klaus has also encouraged - look to the historical record!  From day one the Church has been governed by the apostolic office of the bishop - and continues to this day as such.  So, will a certain amount of the truth is found in Pastor Klaus' church - the "ultimate truth" of which Pastor Klaus teaches is found in the Catholic Church.  Klaus' own arguments should show him this truth.  Let us pray he reaches this end.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scripture and Tradition


The online dictionary defines the word tradition to be “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation.”

The Sacred Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, are a kind of tradition, a tradition handed down to us.  The apostles who were taught by Jesus and whose followers wrote down what they learned of the apostles stories and recollections that we now call the New Testament writings put these writings together with the Old Testament writings in one collection of books which we now call our Bible, where the word ‘Bible’ originates from the Greek ‘biblio’, which means ‘book’.

The authors of these NT books ‘handed down’ these letters, and the information contained in them, to others who would benefit from reading them and they, in turn, copied them and handed it to others.  This handing down is a form of tradition.  Since we believe that these writings came to us through the divine inspiration of the authors by God Himself through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and protected from corruption in its copying, we call these writings ‘Sacred Scripture.’

The difference between ‘small-t’ tradition and ‘capital-T’ tradition is its origin.  If a tradition, that is, a belief, a custom or information, is known to have originated from Jesus Christ or the apostles while being inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach the truth then this tradition is properly called Sacred Tradition, or simply ‘capital-T’ Tradition and if it doesn’t originate from Jesus or the apostles in the same way, then it’s a small-t tradition.  For example, the concept of three persons in one God, the Trinity is a capital-t Tradition while the tradition of crossing ourselves with Holy Water as we enter a church as a small-t tradition.  The first is revealed by God and therefore the Truth, the other is simply a pious thing to do.

‘T’radition is the churches lived meaning of those texts.  If we don’t have access to the meaning of those texts is when we come up all sorts of errant or even abhorrent theologies.  Theologies which are inconsistent with what the Apostles received such as the Arian heresy where Jesus is believed to be human only and not divine.  Or even the belief in a symbolic only presence in the Eucharist as opposed to a True Presence.  In defending their belief in the human nature only of Christ and the symbolic presence only in the Eucharist, both groups defend their position using the text of the Scriptures and yet they were/are both wrong because they do not take into account the continuing understanding of those texts by those Christians through history.

WAIT A MINUTE….

Didn’t Jesus condemn all traditions of men?  He seems to be very clear when He pronounces in Matt 15:6 “So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God.” or in Mark 7:13 “Making void the word of God by your own tradition, which you have given forth.

To reject all traditions because of these verses demonstrate a severe lack of understanding.  Jesus isn’t rejecting all traditions.  He’s rejecting any tradition that voids the Word of God; traditions of the kind are often called ‘traditions of men’ because they do not originate from God but from man.  With this in mind we can easily see that is what Jesus was condemning.  He was condemning any tradition that make “void the word of God”.

Therefore some traditions are OK but some are not.  So how can we figure out which ones to keep and which ones to reject, or more precisely, are there any traditions that we ought to reject as faithful followers of Jesus? Many will tell you that if a tradition does not line up with Scripture then it is man-made and to be avoided.  Sounds reasonable right?  Reasonable, maybe, but to do this means that we are rejecting beyond what Jesus was telling us to reject.  Jesus told us to reject the traditions of men since He was talking about those traditions that made void the word of God.  Just because a tradition is not found in Scripture doesn’t mean that it voids the Word of God.  It could simply mean that this tradition was never explicitly written down in Scripture.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find that all that’s needed for right-Christian living is to be found in Scripture.  Equally absent will you find everything that was taught by Jesus and the apostles.  The apostle John tells us that many things were taught by Jesus in His post-Resurrection appearances that were not written down (John 21:25).

As a matter of fact, we do find in Scripture the direct command to hold on to the traditions handed to us by the original followers of Christ in verse 15 of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.  Paul tells us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  Not only does Paul direct us to “hold on to the traditions” taught by him and the other elders but he also defines what was written to be a form of tradition as well.  What was taught orally and what was taught through their writings were both defined as “traditions”.  Therefore what was taught by the apostles, either through word of mouth or through inspired writings was to be accepted and believed.

Now, I guess the question will have to come up.  How are we to know if what we call Sacred Tradition truly does originate with the apostles and is not a human invention inserted decades or even centuries later?  Many will tell you to go to the Scriptures.  But then we are assuming that the Scriptures are inspired in the first place.  Remember that the Scriptures are a form of tradition as well.  We are trying to determine if any specific tradition came to us from God directly or through the apostles.  We are obliged to accept and agree with those that do originate from God directly or through the apostles, but no such obligation exists for those traditions that do not.

For a concrete example, let’s look at the Scriptures a little more closely.  If the Scriptures are a form of capital-t Tradition then how did we as Christians come up with the collection of books in our Bible as thee collection of writings to accept as ‘God-breathed’, or inspired?  Answering this question will also help make clear why the doctrine of Sola-Scriptura cannot be true.

At the turn of the third century many considered early writings to be ‘God-breathed’ that today are not in our Bible while others considered certain writings that are in our Bible today were rejected at the time.  The confusion needed to be resolved and so a council was convened to determine which books were inspired and which were not.  This ‘canon’ was agreed upon by a local council at Hippo and Carthage (393 and 397 AD) and ratified by the Pope in c. 400 AD.  Once this was done there were no more disputes on the canon of the books inspired by God.  Therefore, all those who agree and accept the books of the NT of our Bible, accept the authority of the Church to infallibly determine this list of inspired writings, whether they know it or not.

And so we find that the inspired writings found their way in our Bible through the Church by ordained men, bishops of the Catholic Church.  To accept the authority of the Scriptures is to accept the authority of the Catholic Church.  This means that the doctrine invented by men in the early 1500’s that Scripture Alone is authoritative is self-defeating because to believe that the Scriptures are authoritative is to accept that the Church is also authoritative since they infallibly discerned which books were Scripture.  Both Scripture AND the Church are authoritative therefore Scripture is not alone, which is what Sola means in Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone.

God Bless

Nathan

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bishop Facing Arrest

Bishop of Chur, Switzerland, is facing up to three years in prison for defending family values.  A homosexual group called the Pink Cross is alleging Bishop Huonder is inciting violence against homosexuals because Leviticus calls for the death penalty for those caught in homosexual acts.
Quoting The Stream article:
The bishop responded to the protests with a statement stressing that he was not endorsing violence against homosexual people. “During the lecture I quoted several uncomfortable passages from the Old Testament to do with marriage, sexuality and family,” he said. “I want to clarify that I would in no way wish to diminish homosexual people.”
The head of Pink Cross rejected the response: “There is no question in this case of what he was talking about — there was no misunderstanding. We don’t need charity or mercy from the Church at all; we don’t accept his apology.”
Read more here:  https://stream.org/bishops-faces-three-years-in-jail-for-defending-marriage/

The article concludes with a warning for American Catholics to pay attention to this case, and I agree. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Bread of Life

Today I would like to talk about one particular verse from today’s Gospel reading but first I strongly suggest you go to you Bible and read the Bread of Life discourse where we find this particular verse.

Go ahead and read carefully the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, verses 22 through 58.  About this section about being the Bread of Life and that we must eat this bread and drink this blood to have eternal life.

 

  1. The first thing to notice is “what else could Jesus have said to make it any more plain?”  Six times He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood.  6 times!
     
  2. Second, He doesn’t correct those that leave Him for misunderstanding Him since they thought He spoke literally while He supposedly spoke only symbolically.  My question is: why didn’t He say so before they left Him?
     
  3. Thirdly, the apostle John recounts Jesus using two different words when speaking of ‘eating’ His flesh.  In the beginning of His discourse He uses the word “PHAGO” which is defined as ‘eat’ and which can sometimes be taken symbolically.  But when the Jews have difficulty accepting Jesus’ second attempt at clarifying His teaching Jesus switches to the word “TROGO” in verse 54 when speaking of ‘eating’ His flesh, a word which is NEVER used symbolically in Scripture and means to ‘munch, gnaw or crunch’ His Flesh making it extremely clear that Jesus was speaking literally.
     
    And so Jesus let the Jews leave because they understood Him correctly, they just couldn’t accept this ‘hard teaching.’


And so Jesus let the Jews leave because they understood Him correctly, they just couldn’t accept this ‘hard teaching.’

And my favorite verse of the whole ‘Bread of Life’ discourse is verse 51.

Verse 51 of John 6 says this: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.

Jesus is the living bread.  We are to eat this bread.  This bread that He gives for us to eat is the flesh that He will give for the life of the world.    If the bread is symbolically His flesh then the flesh that He gives for the life of the world must be symbolic as well.  That’s how Jesus describes it.  Was the flesh on the cross symbolic? Or real?  The flesh that we are to eat, is it symbolic or real?  If the flesh on the cross is real then the bread that we are to eat is that same flesh.  This verse makes it impossible to accept a symbolic reckoning of the flesh we are to eat and the blood we are to drink.


God Bless
Nathan

Saturday, August 01, 2015

What Catholics Believe - The Blessed Trinity

Faithful Catholics believe in the Blessed Trinity, that is three divine persons in one God.  There are not three gods, only one God.  The persons are distinct yet coequal in substance, nature, divinity, and glory.   Let us look at some of the teachings on the Blessed Trinity:

The Council (Synod) of Toledo spells out the definition quite well, here is an excerpt:

312 [529] For, if we are asked about the single persons, we must confess that each is God. Therefore, we say that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God ' each one distinctly; yet there are not three gods, but one God. Similarly, we say that the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty, each one distinctly; yet there are not three almighty ones, but one Almighty, as we profess one light and one principle. Hence we confess and believe that each person distinctly is fully God, and the three persons together are one God. Theirs is an undivided and equal Godhead, majesty and power, which is neither diminished in the single persons nor increased in the three. For it is not less when each person is called God separately, nor is it greater when all three persons are called one God. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also explains "distinction" with "equality:"

CCC 254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary." "Father", "Son", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son." They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds." The divine Unity is Triune.

The Formula "The Merciful Trinity" [D 17]

The merciful Trinity is one divine Godhead.  Consequently the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are one source, one substance, one virtue and one power.  We say that God the Father and God the Son and god the Holy Ghost are not three gods, but we very piously confess one God.  For although we name three persons, we publicly declare with the catholic and apostolic voice that they are one substance.  Therefore the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, these three are one [cf. 1 John 5:7].  Three, neither confused, nor separated, but both distinctly joined and though joined, distinct; united in substance, but differentiated in name, joined in nature, distinct in person, equal in divinity, entirely similar in majesty, united in trinity, sharers in splendor.  They are one in such a way, that we do not doubt that that they are also three; and they are three in such a way that we acknowledge that the cannot be disjoined from one another.  Therefore there is no doubt, that an insult to one is an affront to all, becase the praise of on pertains to the glory of all.

For this is the principal point of our faith according to the Gospel and the apostolic doctrine, that our Lord Jesus Christ and the Son of Godare not separated from the Father either in the acknowledgement of honor, or in the power of virtue, or in the divine nature of substance, or be an interval of time.  And therefore if anyone says that the Son of God, who just as he is truly God, so also is true man except in sin alone, did not possess something belonging to human nature or did not possess something belonging to the Godhead, he should be judged wicked and hostile to the Catholic and apostolic Church.
[D = Henry Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum aka:  Sources of Catholic Dogma] 

Athanasian Creed:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

[qtd. from:  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm ]

More readings:


Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ:  http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Trinity/Trinity_001.htm

Fr. William G. Most, EWTN:  https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/GODA22.htm

Tim Staples, Catholic Answers:  http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/explaining-the-trinity

Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent:  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm